The COVID-19 Pandemic. Everyone is experiencing it. Everyone has been under a social distancing order. But people are experiencing it differently. For former University of Georgia gymnast Lauren Johnson, the health and safety of the nation is her job.
Johnson graduated from UGA with a degree in Human Development and Family Science in 2017 before continuing her education with a masters in Public Health. She graduated in May 2019 and accepted a position as a Healthcare Preparedness Planner with the Georgia Department of Public Health in December.
As a Healthcare Preparedness Planner she assists in getting resources to hospitals and making plans for the hospitals and their healthcare coalitions. She barely got a chance to get her feet wet before diving head first into COVID-19. Her assignment has changed a bit and she is now stationed at a warehouse facility located at the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) and has also worked at the quarantine site.
The warehouse has everything from ventilators and masks, to suits and medicines. Hospitals don’t have enough protective equipment so they distribute the supplies out to them and that’s where Lauren is now—the state warehouse.
“It’s interesting to be on this side of it,” Johnson said. “At first, since I was so new to this, I was nervous because this is scary. We are trying to get away from COVID but also save people at the same time. I was nervous to go to the quarantine site but we had so much protective equipment that it wasn’t bad.”
“I was thrown into the fire,” Johnson continued. “But I love the people I’m working with and I get to help save lives. I’m not directly on the frontlines, but in many ways I am because I’m making sure [hospitals] have the proper supplies and have taken care of patients at our quarantine site.”
Johnson says they have it under control, but outside factors make it harder. She advised the people to listen to the professionals.
“Doctors and nurses are the ones treating the patients and we are the ones who are tracking the disease and knew the virus was even in Georgia,” Johnson said. “We are here to support the doctors and nurses, we have their back.”
Johnson is not new to being a support system for others. She was a fifth-year senior as a GymDog and was the ringleader of the group.
During her final season in 2018, Johnson tore her Achilles during the practice day of regionals. She knows what it’s like to have the post season abruptly end, even though she was still able to be there with her team. She felt for her former teammates who experienced that now with the sudden end of their senior campaigns due to COVID-19.
“I felt it for them, especially for Sabrina [Vega] and Rachel [Dickson],” Johnson said. “I thought it was the end of the world when I tore my achilies, but they have so much ahead of them. When I stopped gymnastics I didn’t know what I’d be doing today. Sabrina wants to be a doctor and she can be in this position one day- saving lives from COVID. I hope they keep working on their studies and look forward to their careers. They can take the skills they learned from gymnastics and put that into what they’re doing next. “
Johnson says that her friends, including many former teammates have reached out asking what to do and they trust the guidance from her. She tells them: stay home as long as you can, don’t go outside without a mask, and keep washing your hands.